THE EVOLUTION OF MASS MEDIA AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT IN NIGERIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE
By Solomon Chung, Abuja
Mass media operations in Nigeria started long before independence and were an integral part of the struggle, as well as national development in the subsequent administrations. The media was in the forefront of the fight against colonialism and even after independence, the role of the media in Nigeria’s quest for Nationhood did not change.
The media through the likes of the defunct West African Pilot newspaper was used to galvanize Nigerians to support the nationalist’s clamour for the attainment of independence in 1960.
With such historical antecedent, there is no doubt that the role of the mass media in supporting democratic development and stimulating economic growth has come to stay in the country.
The impact of the media and information management has also been felt in the promotion of good governance, partnership and attracting foreign direct investments to the country.
Before now, the electronic media was wholly owned by the Government, with a few newspapers owned by the private sector and the Government.
The entrance of private sector players into the broadcast space changed the media dynamics, challenging the government media outfits to address the need for innovation and upgrading. The deregulation of the broadcast media by the National Broadcasting Act of 1992, made way for the Nigerian media to obtain global recognition and attain a leadership role in Africa.
Nigeria in the last six decades of independence, has had different types of information and media policies – from military decrees to acts of parliament. These were meant to guarantee freedom of speech using both traditional methods and the new media to achieve set objectives.
Over the years Nigerian stakeholders in the information sub-sector have diversified the strategies used in reaching their target audiences. The innovations include town hall meetings, press releases, stakeholders’ engagements, media tours, advocacy campaigns, as well as the use of social media platforms.
The social media became strategically relevant in the past two decades, challenging the conventional media with its speed and immediacy in information dissemination.
However, the distortion of facts and miss-information in some cases has raised serious concerns to all. This has led to calls for the regulation of the social media in Nigeria as obtains in some countries such as Russia and China.
Some scholars in communication and information management posit that, without doubt, the information and digital technology that birthed the social media provides greater opportunities in a democracy and diverse societies like Nigeria.
However, the flip side of the coin is that, the democratization of the technology of information dissemination is posing new challenges; issues of fake news, misinformation and hate speech among others, are of concern to major players in Nigeria’s information management space.
Recent agitations and accounts of events fueled by the social media suggest that Nigerians need to be wary of the dangers of pernicious propaganda.
The lessons learnt from the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970, the Rwandan genocide and the Yugoslav massacre, to mention a few, are enough to awaken the consciousness of citizens to the ills of fake news emanating from the social media, which could lead to a conflagration.
However, the new media does have a positive potential and hopefully will become a partner with government, for the accelerated development of Nigeria in the years ahead.